If Malaysia’s an under-the-radar tourist destination, no one told the hotels. The churning metropolis of Kuala Lumpur is home to swanky boutiques and historic buildings both. And outside the city, the jungle gives way to a host of inspired villas and cottages. Here are ten of the most fascinating hotels in Malaysia.
1. JapaMala ResortTioman Island, Malaysia
Whether you fly to Tiomen Island (just off the east coast of peninsular Malaysia) or take a ferry, the change in mood from the churning metropolis of Kuala Lumpur to this rustic collection of villas at the edge of the jungle could hardly be more pronounced. With its open-plan chalets designed for equal levels of privacy and exposure to the unspoiled surroundings, this resort makes an art form out of leaving the busy world behind.
2. The RuMa Hotel and ResidencesKuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Underrated among Far East megacities is Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital, perhaps best known either for its iconic Petronas Towers or for its out-of-this-world street-food scene. For hotel fans, however, it’s perhaps even better known as a place where extravagant heights of luxury are available at prices that, for foreign travelers, are a fraction of what they’d expect.
3. Bon Ton Antique Wooden VillasLangkawi, Malaysia
Off the northwest coast of Malaysia, the Langkawi archipelago rises out of the Andaman Sea, a tropical paradise honored by UNESCO for its natural beauty. On one of the islands, a short stroll away from Cenang Beach, on the grounds of an old coconut farm, the Bon Ton Antique Wooden Villas are a charming forest hideaway. This unique luxury hotel consists of eight traditional stilted cottages set around a central swimming pool and gardens.
4. The Chow KitKuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Chow Kit is the name, first and foremost, of a neighborhood in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur, known for its markets and for its thrillingly unsavory old reputation. These days it’s one of the city’s hippest quarters, and is home to a hotel that shares its name — designed by the Brooklyn firm Post Company, it’s arguably the first properly swanky luxury boutique hotel in town.
5. Sofitel Kuala Lumpur DamansaraKuala Lumpur, Malaysia
In a luxury hospitality industry crowded with often indiscernible brands, Sofitel’s claim to distinction is its Frenchness — not just in its ownership, but in its style as well. And while the Sofitel Kuala Lumpur Damansara, in the upscale Damansara Heights district of Malaysia’s capital, pays generous tribute to its immediate surroundings (as any decent luxury hotel should), this is Kuala Lumpur with a noticeable French accent.
6. Else Kuala LumpurKuala Lumpur, Malaysia
In contrast with the gleaming modern skyscraper hotels that surround it, Else Kuala Lumpur makes its home in a much more interesting place: the 1930s Art Deco Lee Rubber Building, right in the heart of Chinatown, in the old city center. It’s more urban resort than city business hotel, and its rooms and suites feel suitably warm and organic.
7. Temple TreeLangkawi, Malaysia
Originally, Bon Ton was a fairly typical Malay villa resort; a lush little parcel of land near the beach on Langkawi island, furnished with ten classic century-old villas in the indigenous style. So far, so good. It’s when it came time to expand, however, that true inspiration struck. Instead of building another set of villas from scratch, the proprietors found some more, in a variety of styles, Chinese, Malay and colonial, and moved them from their original locations, dismantling them piece by piece and painstakingly rebuilding them here, at Temple Tree.
8. Villa SamadhiKuala Lumpur, Malaysia
It seems impossible, but smack in the middle of Kuala Lumpur, a city that gives new meaning to the word “bustling,” is a serene, luxe little hideaway called Villa Samadhi. Plenty of hip hotels seek to put their patrons in the metropolis’s glittering, garish nerve center. Here’s where to stay if you’d rather see trees than towers, hear coos rather than honks, be sedate rather than stimulated.
9. Bunga Raya Island Resort & SpaKota Kinabalu, Malaysia
Malaysia might not quite top the list when it comes to famous holiday destinations, but Bunga Raya is proof that this sort of luxe island paradise knows no national boundaries. But rather than some over-water lagoon resort, this one is closer to the hidden-cove fantasy of something like The Beach; Bunga Raya lies tucked into a narrow bay with baby-soft sand in the middle and dense jungles ascending the hillside at both ends.
10. Four Seasons Hotel Kuala LumpurKuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Set in the center of Malaysia’s ultra-modern capital city, Four Seasons Hotel Kuala Lumpur invites guests to a temporary home amidst astonishing skyscrapers and the buzz of urban dynamism. Steps from the breathtaking Petronas Towers and KLCC Park, an adjacent marvel of landscape design, the Four Seasons offers a range of guest rooms, distinguished by skyline, park, or pool-garden views, each featuring a surfeit of natural light complementing pearl accent flooring and paintings from local artists.